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Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Friday, 17 September 2010 13:43 UK
Red panda cubs born at Paignton Zoo
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

The cubs
The two red panda cubs make an appearance

Paignton Zoo is celebrating after the birth of two red panda cubs - a species which is threatened with extinction in the wild.

The pair were born in July 2010 and have kept themselves to themselves until now.

"Red panda cubs are slow to make an appearance as they continue their development in the nest after birth," said Julian Chapman of the zoo.

The pair will make their first public appearances in the next few week.

Zoo staff have sexed the pandas - one is male and one is female.

Animal keeper Jillian Lingard  with one of the cubs
Animal keeper Jillian Lingard with one of the cubs

Father Randy is three-years-old and arrived at Paignton from Dortmund Zoo in Germany in September 2008. Mother Mandy is six-years-old and came from Dublin Zoo in January 2008.

The red panda is classed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which means it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Accurate population figures in the wild are difficult to find, with estimates ranging from fewer than 2,500 to between 16,000 and 20,000.

It has legal protection in Nepal and China, and occurs in several national parks. Conservation breeding programmes in zoos are co-ordinated worldwide.

The red or lesser panda comes from the mountains of Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Myanmar and Nepal.

It lives in high altitude forest and eats bamboo shoots, grass, roots, fruit, acorns and occasionally mice and birds.

It has fur on the pads of its paws to help keep heat in and to prevent it slipping on wet or snowy surfaces.

With its rusty red coat and a long bushy tail it resembles a racoon more than a panda. It is mainly nocturnal and spends most of its time curled on a branch with its tail over its head. It lives in pairs and forms small family groups.

The young stay with the mother until they are 12-months-old.

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